Australian bass player and amp designer Wayne Jones has long existed in a rarefied space in the amp world, first making his name in 2001 with a 2x10 cabinet that beguiled the BP staff as much as any we had then reviewed. More recently, he coupled his prodigious cab-design know-how with the proliferation of lightweight, high-powered built-in amps. The results were no less impressive, as I surmised in my July ’15 review of his WJ 2x10 powered cabinet. Paired with a great preamp, the WJ powered cabs were a formidable addition to the powered-cab market segment.
In the couple years since, Jones has gone a step further. First, he’s updated his line of powered and passive cabinets. Even more substantially, he’s released his first preamp, the two-channel WJBPII. The feature-laden WJBPII is the result of an extensive R&D process undergone in conjunction with top players like Scott Colley and Andre Berry.
The WJBPII is one of the most feature-packed preamps out there. Most integral to its design is that it features two separate channels with entirely separate EQ paths. The advantages of this are legion, whether it’s wanting to use two basses on a gig, double on synth and bass, or use an upright with two pickups (one of the channels includes an XLR jack and phantom power for a pickup or mic that requires it). There is an optical compressor onboard, as well as six bands of EQ. Players can choose to switch between either inputs or have both active, and the output can be blended between the two inputs. There are also stereo balanced XLR outputs, a stereo/mono effect loop, footswitchable muting, a headphone output, and an aux jack for playalong with audio tracks. In short, it has it all. (Go to waynejonesaudio.comfor an extensive list of technical specs.)
Its construction is also superb, although I found the front-panel design a bit cluttered and tough to decipher, especially on a darkened stage. Partly it’s a consequence of packing so much into a relatively small space, but there’s probably room for improvement in the shade and size of some of the labeling. Used in conjunction with one of the WJ powered cabinets or as a standalone preamp in a recording rig, the WJBPII is super clean, transparent, and dry-sounding. Fans of a precise, full-frequency response with zippy transients and abundant clarity will love the WJBPII, either in a rig or in front of a recording interface. Its two-input flexibility was also just the ticket for a lot of my gigs, since I often double on bass and keys.
WJ 2X10 CABINETS
As we reviewed the powered 2x10 in 2015, I won’t go too deep into it here. Jones made a few improvements that bear mentioning. First, he made the cab lighter by moving to lightweight poplar ply. He uses the same massive 70mm ferrite-magnet-equipped kevlar-impregnated drivers, but he’s now moved to JBL tweeters. He also incorporated a cool pull-out handle that allows for schlepping in the style of a roll-along piece of luggage. I just wish it were a bit longer, as the cabinet’s narrowness and prodigious weight could make movement a bit awkward.
The design is thoughtful and seeks to address any of the potential hazards of including a big amp in the same box as a pair of speakers. Connection to the powered cabinet comes courtesy a female xlr jack. While this makes sense given the output of many preamps, having a balanced tip-ring-sleeve ¼" jack would have further enhanced its flexibility to mate with a variety of front-end gear.
Wayne Jones also provided a passive 2x10 for testing. It was no less impressive than its powered sibling, and it offered the opportunity to try other heads that I was more familiar with. It sounds much bigger than its configuration would suggest, and it’s capable of fairly extreme sound-pressure levels without losing its breath.
While the Wayne Jones gear is some of the more expensive and eclectic out there (you’re not going to find it in your local music supermart), it’s also some of the best. It’s huge-sounding, full-throated, and seemingly capable of limitless volume and room-filling intensity. Wayne also has a head in the works—stay tuned for a review.
WAYNE JONES AUDIO
Pros A hi-fi two-channel preamp that pretty much does everything
Cons Front panel a bit hard to decipher
Bottom line A top-shelf front end for a powered cabinet, and a worthy addition to any studio where clean and flexible bass tone is in order.
WJ 2x10 Cabinets
Street Powered, $2,270; passive, $1,850
Pros Some of the best cabs in the biz, with full-range frequency response and impressive endurance
Bottom line The Wayne Jones cabs are as good as it gets.
Made in Australia & USA